It took Skippy Duvall only a few minutes to decide he was impressed with Pine Top Farm, a combined equine training center, during a tour attended by close to 200 Farm Bureau representatives from across the state last weekend.
"In Pine Top, I saw where a farm has adapted to its surroundings and tried to diversify to where they can continue to be a farm," said Mr. Duvall, Greene County Commission Chairman.
Glenn Wilson addresses the participants in the Farm Tour at Pine Top.
The group toured the three-day eventing venue Saturday, as part of a three-day, 10-stop Farm Tour across the 17-county Fourth Farm Bureau District of which McDuffie County is a member. Prior to the visit, the group visited McCorkle Nurseries in Dearing.
Jane Young, office manager for the McDuffie County Farm Bureau office, said the tour sought to spotlight horses and agriculture.
"This year, equine-related facilities were targeted," said Ms. Young. "We wanted Pine Top to show the diversity of what is available across central Georgia."
In addressing the visitors, Mr. Wilson, co-manager of the farm with his wife Janet, said diversification is the name of the game.
"We have diversified, although we still do some agriculture, our real business here is recreation. We run horse shows. We have a pretty good sized herd of cattle, but the truth of the matter is we can generate more revenue in one weekend running a horse show, than that head of cattle generates in a whole year," he said as he sat aboard his horse, Moose, in the near 100-degree temperatures.
The venture was a major investment as the group saw during a 30-minute tally-ho wagon trip around the farm.
Mr. Wilson said as the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, draws closer, competitors for the Three-Day Event Team from the United States will have visited McDuffie County.
"Chances are everyone on that team will have competed here on this farm, over these jumps and in these rings. That's real exciting for us cause it's really breathed new life into this old cotton farm," he said, adding the farm still raised cattle and close to 80 acres of hay.
Besides hosting a number of equine events each year, the facility played host to several international Olympic teams in 1996.
When Mr. Wilson reminisced about his father James E. Wilson and the impact he had on the farm and the community, he found it hard to control his emotions as he mentioned a silhouette drawn by James Wilson's wife, Ruth.
"This is a memorial to my dad. He is buried right over here in the family cemetery. Excuse me," said Mr. Wilson as he choked back tears. "He would be so happy to see you here."
Mr. Duvall, a dairy and poultry farmer, said adapting to change is critical to survival for many farms.
"This farm is a great thing to see in our society where people understand a traditional farm may not be the way they can survive anymore. This allows them to continue being agricultural and provide what the public demands to see."